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Public Library Programming Raises Awareness of Health Information and Community Resources

From May 2017 to April 2018, the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, MidContinental Region (NNLM MCR) funded five very creative public library health information outreach projects. From crock pot cookery classes to learning how to navigate the adult world, these projects addressed relevant health issues in the service community and raised awareness of reliable health information resources from the National Library of Medicine and other authoritative organizations. Each project was provided funding up to $1,500 and could easily be replicated and tweaked to meet the unique needs of your library community.

Tooele City Library: Adulting 101

adulting 101 poster

Figure 1 Adulting 101 events flyer. Credit: Tooele City Library

Project: Tackled basic skills training for ages 13-21 providing training and kits on personal hygiene, home hygiene, financial health, resume building, and organizational skills.

Teens and young adults in the community typically came from economically disadvantaged households, and often lacked knowledge of basic skills for physical, emotional, and financial health. The program’s goal was to reach participants by offering a series of classes to give participants the skills to enter adulthood and maintain a healthy lifestyle. During the course of the project, eight classes were offered: healthy eating on a budget, healthy lifestyle choices, time management, self-care and meditation, job interviewing, financial literacy, healthy dating relationships, and renting your first place. The library put together kits for many of the classes so participants not only had increased skills, but also the physical tools to be successful. The hygiene kit contained items like toothpaste, deodorant, body wash, and a nail kit. The cleaning kit for the “Getting Your First Place” included a dust cloth and cleaning supplies.  The library partnered with an extension office, a local foundation, a local yoga studio, and community volunteers.

Project Impact: The project helped develop life skills in younger community members who lacked positive adult role models. One young participant eagerly shared what she learned with her friends, and thought more kids her age would benefit from taking the classes.

Project Budget: $540.00

Library District #1 Doniphan County: Crockpot Freezer Meals for Low-Income Families and Seniors

Project: Helping community members learn about and practice healthy eating habits by providing crock pots, cooking classes, and supplies to low-income families and seniors.

Over half of the children in the library’s service area qualify for free or reduced-price lunch programs, and many of the families earn below the national median household income. The community has a growing number of individuals living in poverty and a higher than average senior population. The goal of the project was to educate and provide hands-on practice making healthy, affordable meals for 40 families. Budget items for the program included crockpots, knife sets, cutting boards, freezer bags and a cookbook on how to make affordable meals at home. The library partnered with two local food pantries and the county extension office.

Project Impact: The classes provided a sense of community for the participants. Anecdotally, attendees shared that they loved the classes and learned a lot, but library staff had difficulty getting responses to the follow up survey.

Project Budget: $1,091.00

Red Feather Lakes Community Library: Health in the Rockies

making pizza photo

Figure 2 Learning to make pizza. Credit: Red Feather Lakes Community Library

Project: Cooking and nutritional health classes for economically at-risk community families.

The library is situated in an isolated Colorado mountain town with a population around 400. The community has limited access to affordable, healthy food and health care. Thirty-five to fifty percent of elementary school students qualify for free or reduced lunch, but the school does not have an adequate kitchen to offer the program. A high percentage of community members earn below the median income, with some relying solely on disability benefits. The program’s goal was to reach all 35 elementary school students and up to 30 adults through cooking and nutritional health classes held onsite at the library. Seven cooking classes were offered by a local chef, with nearly 100 attendees in total. The food classes highlighted pickling, Spanish food, dressings and dips, healthy desserts, cooking with vegetables, pizza making for kids, and Asian food. Three other programs were offered by regional experts on inflammation, brain health, and genetics.

Project Impact: The project allowed participants to learn about food and its connection to healing chronic disease, living longer, and living better. The classes also created a sense of community for many of the retired participants.

Project Budget: $1,500

Washington County Library System – St. George Branch Health Fair

Project: Reaching out to older adults and seniors to promote access to health information and services in the community with a health fair.

With 20% of Washington County residents in the senior age category, the library wanted to reach this growing population and those who care for them. A health fair was planned so attendees could learn about local resources and have hands-on health information training. While turnout fell short of expectations, there was great enthusiasm from those who did attend with many voicing they hoped the event would be offered again next year. The library had numerous partners including the public health department, several medical centers and clinics, a pharmacy, and a local non-profit serving those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Project Impact: One impact was providing first-time grant writing experience for library staff. The second was reaching the community’s older adults and raising awareness of health information and local health resources.

Project Budget: $1,500

Cedar City Library: Mental Health Awareness Resource and Family Movie Nights

Family Resource Fair poster

Figure 3 Mental health awareness events flyer. Credit: Cedar City Library

Project: Decreasing the stigma of mental health issues by hosting a series of films about mental health, and holding an art show featuring community members’ creations around the theme “What does it mean to be resilient?”

A 2015 survey of students from the area school district found that of the 3,000 respondents 66% had experienced moderate to severe depression, 23% experienced bullying, 14% contemplated suicide, and 7% attempted suicide. The library’s goal for this program was to help students and their families become more aware of community resources for mental health support, be better able to recognize the signs that someone might be struggling, and provide a positive atmosphere for families to bond and spend time together. The library offered four Family Movie nights, showing films containing inspiring or positive messages about maintaining mental health. They also published articles in the local weekly newspaper on mental health topics, hosted an art gallery display with local artist submissions illustrating resiliency, and held a mental health resource fair. An area community-based organization addressing youth drug and alcohol use partnered with the library.

Project Impact: Each part of the project was met with a variety of participation and enthusiasm, but ultimately reached a population who either didn’t understand or care about mental health issues. The programming increased participants understanding and compassion regarding mental health issues.

Project Budget: $1,300

Program Planning Resources

NNLM Past Funded Projects – see what projects the NNLM has funded over the years across the country.

Programming Librarian – run by the American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office, it’s a great place to find program ideas, resources, and professional development opportunities. You can search from program ideas based on your budget, your type of library, audience, age group, and more!

Programs for School-Aged Kids – from the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of ALA. Find book related activities, community service programs, craft programs, drama and performance programs, food programs, gaming programs, guests in the library, science programs, and tech programs.

Funding Resources

Awards, Grants and Scholarships – compiled by the ALA.

NNLM Funding Opportunities – see current funding opportunities from the NNLM.

-Dana Abbey, Colorado/Community Engagement Coordinator


The MidContinental Messenger is published quarterly by the Network of the National Library of Medicine MidContinental Region

Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library
University of Utah
10 North 1900 East, Building 589
Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-5890

Editor: Suzanne Sawyer, Project Coordinator
(801) 587-3487

This project has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012344 with the University of Utah Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library.

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